HARRISON, N.J. – The Houston Dynamo losing head coach Dominic Kinnear to suspension for this weekend’s match is no detriment to their opponents, the New York Red Bulls, but it's something Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke wishes wouldn't have happened.
Petke touched on Kinnear’s suspension for Sunday’s first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series (3:30 pm ET, NBC), saying that it will not affect the game at BBVA Compass Stadium and showing a degree sympathy towards Kinnear's situation.
The longtime Dynamo manager was handed a one-match ban by the MLS Disciplinary Committee late on Friday for leaving his technical area and entering the field during a player scuffle in the final moments of the Dynamo’s 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round match on Thursday.
“It’s unfortunate,” Petke told reporters after New York’s Saturday morning training session at Red Bull Arena. “I don’t like that he’s suspended. He deserves to be in there. I think what he went down there to do is smart, to get his players out of the way and in no way engage the other players, team.
“He did what he thought was right for his team and it’s unfortunate that he’s not going to be on the sideline. I wish he was, from a sporting standpoint. He’s earned the right to be on there, but it’s unfortunate.“
While Petke doesn't believe Kinnear’s absence will affect the Dynamo and their gameplan (Kinnear is not allowed in the locker room or on the sidelines during Sunday’s match), at least one Red Bulls player believes it might.
Goalkeeper Luis Robles said that for players it is detrimental not having your head coach around to do things like deliver the pregame speech or give directions from the bench during the match.
“It’s definitely different,” said Robles. “Going into the playoffs you want to be at full capacity and especially with us, we want our head coach to be there. He’s definitely been one of our motivating factors to go into every game and setting our mind right.
“I think it’ll play into them but it’s not going to change our mentality.”
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Also unlikely to change is New York's starting goalkeeper on Sunday. Recovering from a left knee injury sustained last weekend, Robles trained for the second consecutive day on Saturday and showed no ill effects to all but remove any lingering doubt as to whether he would be ready to play vs. Houston.
“I feel a lot better than yesterday,” said Robles, who is the only Red Bulls player to start every game this year. “Yesterday, it was coming off the injury and doing the treatment and wearing the brace, it felt a little lethargic, a little slow. We decided to go without it [today] and I feel fine.
“Everything feels good and that what’s the whole purpose of today was, to go really hard and really intense and make sure that I can do everything. We did crossing, we did kicking and we saved kicking for the end and shots. We’re good to go.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.